Saturday, May 30, 2015

By George, I think I've got it!

This year's mystery plant.

Over the past few years I've had a few mystery plants in my garden. Usually they're small, but the two pictures below are from several years ago, when I had some kind of thistle, I believe. In true biennial fashion, it grew a lush rosette for the first year, then began to create a flower stem the following year.

Despite submitting it to the Master Gardener forum and getting lots of input from gardeners and bloggers, I never learned what it was. I was warned not to let it set seed, so I didn't. But those wide, hooked leaves were magnificent!
Now there's another large plant in my garden I've been admiring and wondering about. I first noticed it in the garden last summer. Here it's providing an out of focus backdrop to the early blooms of Agastache 'Acapulco Orange'.
I was entranced by the huge, soft, gray-green leaves and allowed them to stay as they nestled around two Lilium columbianum.

Summer turned into fall and the rosette persisted.
 Those fuzzy, upturned leaves pleased me every time I saw them.

I loved the contrast of the leaves with the bright, fresh green of Sedum 'Angelina'.

As winter turned into spring, the bottom leaves got a little chewed up but the plant thrived.

This spring, the plant began to develop a stem. And looking at online resources, I'm pretty sure I have this big guy identified: Verbascum thapsis.

Yes, of course it's a weed, and in some places it's considered invasive. But on the plus side, it does have some medicinal uses.

At this point in its life cycle, the oldest leaves near the bottom of the plant aren't retaining that beautiful fuzziness and gray-green color.

But they more than make up for it in sheer size.

It's giving the Columbia lilies a run for their money: who will win the airspace race?

Judging from online pictures, the bloom is probably going to bump into the underside of the Trachycarpus fortunei leaves as it matures. And then I'll need to be sure it doesn't set seed.
But it's kind of a cool problem to have.

I'm curious - do you allow big mystery plants to stay for a while in your garden?


  1. You can let it bloom, but do NOT let it go to seed. I did and this year I am pulling up hundreds and hundreds of plants. The seeds are like grains of pepper and there are zillions of them!

    1. Thank you for the warning, Beth! I will be hyper-vigilant when it blooms.

  2. You can let it bloom, but do NOT let it go to seed. I did and this year I am pulling up hundreds and hundreds of plants. The seeds are like grains of pepper and there are zillions of them!

  3. I'd be happy for that one to show up in my garden, but like you - wary of the legions of others it might create. I blogged about a mystery plant in my garden here:, I think that's the only one I've had this year

  4. I let a patch of thistles grow last year, and I regretted it. For the most part I usually pull up anything I don't recognize. That is a very nice Verbascum, love the big woolly leaves.

  5. Well, Jane, I must say that your mystery plant sure chose the perfect spot to make itself at home. That last photo is fantastic! ... I have several reseeders, very few are actual mystery plants but I do consider them bonus plants. :)

  6. I love a mystery plant ! I did have to pull out lots of Verbascum seedlings , but I pull out For -get-me nots, Euphorbia , Eryngiums, fox gloves, Rumex, Sedum , parsley, Carex…… keeps me fit.

  7. Jane - love the verbascum - such a stately plant. But, hearing all the others' advice is a good idea... I know exactly what that first mystery plant was. Had the same thing show up in my garden last year, and blogged about it too.

    1. Thank you, Anna! Teasel - and no one knew at the time. I'm so glad to have that mystery solved!

  8. You've gotten some big, interesting foliage plants as mysteries--pretty cool. Almost like Stachys or Salvia argentea. Here the seedlings are almost all easily identified neighborhood trash trees: Eucalyptus globulus, Washingtonia, Fraxinus uhdei, Camphor cinnamonium, paper myrtle, the dread pirate Alianthus.

  9. Wow, pretty cool volunteer! I love the big gray green fuzzy leaves! I am letting a few volunteers stay this year like the little scurvy weed that is slowly spreading itself around.

  10. I pulled out some fireweed...and learned my lesson: been trying to get some of that going ever since.


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